What do you think of when you think of visiting Massachusetts? For most visitors, visiting Massachusetts is synonymous with visiting Boston
. Of course, there’s enough to do in Boston to keep any visitor happily busy for weeks. From the Freedom Trail to the North End to shopping at Faneuil Hall’s open air marketplace, Boston offers something for everyone. But there’s also a whole world of recreational, cultural and just plain fun things to do outside Boston that it’s a pity to confine yourself to the city when you visit Massachusetts. The state is small enough that nearly any venue in Massachusetts is only an hour or two from Boston, so do yourself a favor and rent a car for your stay in Massachusetts so you can enjoy all that the state has to offer. Here are some of the highlights that are off the beaten path in Massachusetts.
When the Pilgrims landed in the new world, they set foot on land about thirty miles south of Boston in Plymouth. No visit to Massachusetts is complete without a day in Plymouth. Must-see’s in Plymouth include:
Plimoth Plantation is a living museum open from March through November of every year. The centerpiece of the Plantation is the recreation of the village as it was in 1627, complete with costumed role players who take on the identity of a person who actually lived in the village at the time. It’s a fascinating walk back in time where you can converse with figures from history, watch demonstrations of home and gardening skills from the time and soak up the atmosphere.
Mayflower II is a reproduction of the original Mayflower that carried the Pilgrims from England to the New World. Like the Plantation, it is manned by costumed role players who will answer your questions and interact with visitors. You might learn how to grind corn for the cook’s porridge or use the astrolabe to set a course, and even get to try it for yourself.
The Wampanog Homesite is a recreation of the story of one 17th century Wampanog, Hobamock. Unlike most of the sites at Plimoth, the Homesite is not staffed by costumed interpreters. Instead, those that you meet at the Homesite are all Native People who speak to visitors about the Wampanog experience in their own modern words.
Now in its 26th year, King Richard’s Faire is an annual Renaissance Festival held in Carver, Massachusetts every weekend from the start of September through the third week in October. The Faire offers costumed entertainers, a storyline that changes from year to year, and some of the best medieval-themed handcrafts to be found anywhere.
Cross the Bourne or the Sagamore Bridge and you’ll find yourself in a completely different world. Cape Cod is rightly famous for its beautiful beaches and leisurely way of life. It’s the ultimate family holiday town. For a special treat, take the ferry across to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket and enjoy the casual atmosphere of the Cape Cod Islands. While you’re on the Cape, be sure to buy fried clams at the beach and ice cream at Four Seasons Ice Cream.
Yes, Worcester. The Heart of the Commonwealth is often overlooked on the tourist track, but there are a few absolute must-visit sites in the second largest city in New England.
The Higgins Armory houses the best collection of medieval arms and armor in the nation, bar none. The displays are fascinating, and there are frequent demonstrations and hands-on activities for kids and adults. The Worcester Art Museum is a world-class art museum off the beaten track. The collections of French Impressionists and American Modernist and Traditionalists alone are worth the (very reasonable) price of admission. Walk through Union Station just to be able to say you’ve done it. The recently restored railroad station is one of the most beautiful in the country, featuring a ceiling that will awe you every time you look up. Visit Tower Hill Botanical Gardens just outside Worcester in Boylston and enjoy the most incredible collection of heirloom and native plants anywhere in the country. Spend a day at the EcoTarium, formerly the New England Science Center, where you’ll find a planetarium and exhibits of animals in their natural habitats, including Kenda, a polar bear who was born at the EcoTarium in 1983.
Like Plimoth Plantation, Old Sturbridge Village is a living museum. Its centerpiece is a recreated village from 1830s America. The village is staffed by costumed historical interpreters who interact with visitors and often run workshops and demonstrations in traditional gardening, cooking and crafts. Admission tickets to Old Sturbridge Village are good for two days during a one-week period so that you and your family can take the time to relax and enjoy all that the village has to offer.
If you’re visiting Massachusetts in winter, you’ll find spectacular skiing across the state. Among the best ski resort areas in the state are the Blue Hills, located south of Boston, Nashoba Valley, north of Boston, and Wachusett Mountain, west of Boston. Wachusett Mountain Ski Resort in Wachusett, MA, offers year round events and activities, including the Skyride, the September Music Festival, the October Applefest and the November Autumn Wine Celebration.
Springfield, in Western Massachusetts, trades places with Worcester as the second largest city in New England so often that locals joke it’s all one family moving back and forth between the two cities. The Springfield Civic Center hosts some of the finest concerts in New England, but perhaps the most famous attraction in the Springfield area is the Basketball Hall of Fame. Open year round, the Basketball Hall of Fame contains exhibits about the history of basketball and tributes to the inductees that belong to the Hall of Fame.
Massachusetts is also home to twenty-four wineries that are catching the attention of wine lovers everywhere. From the tip of the Cape (and both Cape Islands) to the border of New York, there are two dozen fine vineyards and wineries, all of which feature tastings and tours, and many of which offer pick your own activities.
Next time you’re considering a visit to Massachusetts, resolve to step off the Freedom Trail to see what the rest of the state.